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Film breakdown: What the all-22 says about new Lions CB Emmanuel Moseley

Examining Detroit Lions free agent signing CB Emmanuel Moseley’s impact on the field during the 2022 season.

Green Bay Packers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Tom Hauck/Getty Images

As part of our ongoing NFL free agency coverage, we will be breaking down film on each of the top Detroit Lions’ recent acquisitions. Next up is cornerback Emmanuel Moseley.

Like fellow Lions’ cornerback Cameron Sutton, Moseley played his college ball at the University of Tennessee before being picked up by the San Francisco 49ers as a UDFA in 2018. In his fifth year in San Francisco, Moseley started at outside cornerback for a 49ers defense that was widely considered one of the best units in all of football. Things were progressing in the right direction for Moseley in 2022, before tearing his ACL in a Week 5 win over the Carolina Panthers ultimately cost him the rest of the season.

Now Moseley will join a revamped Lions’ secondary that will look completely different than it did at the beginning of last year. Let’s get right into what we can expect from Moseley once he dons the Honolulu blue.

Previously: Breaking down Cameron Sutton’s game

Breaking on the ball

Moseley got tested early on in the 2022 season, drawing a matchup with the Seattle Seahawks and their star receiver D.K. Metcalf. Standing 6-foot-4 and 236 pounds—Metcalf is a tall task for any corner to handle in one-on-one coverage, and Seahawks’ quarterback Geno Smith wasted little time in getting his big-bodied target involved.

Like many defenses in this era of the NFL, the 49ers run a lot of cover 3—which essentially splits the deep part of the field into thirds. In the clip below, Moseley is giving Metcalf plenty of cushion, and once the ball is snapped—opens his hips towards the middle of the field while simultaneously staying stacked on top of the receiver. As Metcalf begins to bend inside, Moseley closes the gap and is able to make a play on the ball before it got to the receiver’s hands. It may have been flagged, but I still like Moseley’s ability to climb the ladder with a bigger receiver.

On the next snap below, you will find Moseley circled towards the top of your screen. Once again, he is lined up across from Metcalf—this time playing off of the line of scrimmage. Working out of the bunch, Metcalf briefly runs right at Moseley before breaking inside across the corner’s face. Moseley snaps out of his backpedal in an instant, arriving right on time, and coming away with a pass break-up. His ability to play with anticipation on the back end really stood out to me as I studied his 2022 tape.

In the next clip below, the Seahawks dial up a trick play early in an attempt to catch the loaded 49ers defense off guard. Metcalf does a good job of selling the run early on, casually jogging towards the hash before suddenly turning on the jets back towards the numbers. Moseley was never fooled by any of the acting, and gets in-phase with the receiver before turning to find the ball. He uses his off hand to feel for Metcalf, positioning his body as if he were going up to get a rebound in basketball. Besides the end result (which ended up being negated by a penalty anyways), Moseley couldn’t have played this rep much better. It took a great throw from quarterback Geno Smith and an acrobatic catch from the 6-foot-4 Metcalf.

Sticky in coverage

In his Week 3 matchup against the Denver Broncos, Moseley was particularly sticky. Below, you will see Moseley crossing the field in order to shadow Denver wide receiver Jerry Jeudy as he runs in motion. After the ball is snapped, Jeudy gets into his release, gives Moseley some wiggle at the top of his route, and puts his right foot in the ground—making his way back towards the hash. The pass from Broncos’ quarterback Russell Wilson is a bit off target, although it wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Moseley was in Jeudy’s hip pocket, and managed to get a hand on the ball while avoiding a defensive pass interference call.

Next we have Moseley working against Denver receiver Courtland Sutton. Below, you will find him circled up at the top of the screen—walked up towards the line of scrimmage. Sutton tries for an outside release, knowing Wilson is likely going to try and throw him a back-shoulder pass towards the boundary. Again, the throw wasn’t perfect from Wilson, but Moseley would have made even a perfect pass difficult to come down with. He runs step-for-step with Sutton, mirroring the receiver’s movements down the sideline.

Even in instances in which Moseley was beaten for a catch, he was almost always in-phase with his assignment, and was rarely completely out of position—which speaks to his overall stickiness in coverage as a defensive back.

Willing and able tackler

Another aspect of Moseley’s game that consistently stood out was his willingness to come up and hit somebody. Whether it was a receiver catching the ball short of the sticks, or doing his part in run-support—Moseley tackles as if he is bigger than someone who only stands 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds.

Let’s flip back to the matchup with Seattle for a moment to admire a beautiful stop from Moseley on a critical third down. The Seahawks are running a concept that is designed to clear out defenders, in hopes that the receiver running the out has room to make a defender miss on his way to a first down. Knowing that he is passing off the receiver running the go route, Moseley is quick to diagnose what is going on—making the stop on receiver Tyler Lockett well short of the first down marker.

In the next clip, Moseley begins the play lined up towards the top of your screen, but ends up down near the line of scrimmage once Rams’ receiver Cooper Kupp goes in motion. He fills perfectly, breaking down and sticking running back Cam Akers in the hole—bringing him down for a minimal gain.

Next, we have Moseley working against Kupp down in the redzone. After a play-fake to Akers, quarterback Matthew Stafford zips the ball to Kupp on what was supposed to be a quick-screen. Kupp catches the ball with the intent to turn outside and get back up field—but Moseley was having none of that. He’s on Kupp’s hip in an instant, bringing him down for a loss on the play.

Lastly, we have a concept below that should look pretty familiar to Lions fans. With Kupp once again in motion towards the short side of the field, Stafford initially keeps his eyes fixed on to the right, to try and sell things as best as possible. As the Rams’ quarterback drifts back in the pocket away from the oncoming pass rush, tight end Tyler Higbee disengages from his block and releases into the flat—making himself available to Stafford. Like the rest of the defense, Moseley has overrun the play and turns to run after Higbee shortly after Stafford releases the ball. And while his teammate missed the initial tackle, Moseley is there to clean things up. Plays like these are why defensive coaches will always talk about pursuit and constantly running to the football.

Like Lions’ general manager Brad Holmes alluded to during his media availability at the NFL owners meetings—they may have not had the chance to sign Moseley if it weren’t for his aforementioned injury in Week 5 of the 2022 season. He was playing some high-level football for one of the best defenses in the league before getting hurt, and if he can pick up where he left off for the Lions once he is healthy in 2023—watch out. This secondary could really make some noise.

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